Orlando Arcia might be the most exciting prospect to come through the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system during this decade. After making some noise with a .738 OPS and plus defense in high-A in 2014, the 21 year old entered the year as the Brewers’ lone representative in the top 100 prospect rankings. He has since shot up those rankings with his incredible 2015 performance: .307/.347/.453 in 129 games while leading the AA Biloxi Shuckers to the best record in the Southern League. He paired his usual excellent defense with some new found extra-base power, smacking 52 extra base hits, and he stole 25 bases as well.
The Brewers #1 ranked prospect has been even more impressive under the spotlight of the Southern League playoffs. Arcia collected eight hits in 13 at-bats during the Shuckers’ three game sweep of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, including three doubles and two home runs. Baseball America has called Arcia “the best player in the Southern League,” and Keith Law of ESPN says Arcia has a “real chance” to become an above average regular in the major leagues.
With a tantalizing tool set and the performance to match, it’s easy to see why anyone would be high on the Venezuelan import. He’s a consensus top 50 prospect in the game and has cemented his status as the Brewers’ shortstop of the future. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there is absolutely no good reason for Orlando Arcia to begin the 2016 season in Milwaukee.
Controlling a player’s service time clock has become very important in today’s game, as was demonstrated by the Kris Bryant debacle in Chicago at the beginning of this season. For a small market team like Milwaukee it’s especially imperative to try and maximize the time a player will spend with the team, since it’s difficult to be able to retain free agents with a limited budget. If Arcia were to start next season as the Brewers’ starting shortstop, he would be on track to reach free agency after the 2021 season. If the Brewers were to keep Arcia in the minors for the first two weeks of the season, however, it would prevent him from accruing a full year worth of service time, effectively giving Milwaukee seven years of club control through 2022. The Brewers could also wait until closer to the end of May or beginning of June to call up Arcia, which would help avoid Super 2 eligibility when it comes to salary arbitration.
What would the point be of rushing Arcia up to the majors anyway? The franchise has already acknowledged that it’s in a rebuilding period, and whoever ends up taking the reigns as General Manager will almost certainly be continuing the organization down that path. The only thing that the Brewers will probably be in the hunt for next season is the number one overall draft pick, so there is little reason to waste Arcia’s service time in a non-competing year. He has never played an inning above AA, so he could certainly benefit from additional coaching and refinements at the minors’ highest level before making the jump to the show. Even if Milwaukee eventually decides to trade Arcia for whatever reason, that extra year of control would be a valuable piece of the equation and would help bring back more in return.
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Jean Segura was once considered one of the top prospects in baseball, and when the Brewers acquired him in 2012, they wasted little time in installing him as their everday shortstop and skipping AAA entirely. Since then, it’s fair to say that Segura hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him. While he is a strong defender at short, Segura has been well below average at the plate during his career, especially the last two seasons. While we’ll never know to what extent completely skipping a level of development may have hindered Segura, it almost certainly hasn’t helped. Segura is also blocking Arcia’s natural position at short and probably needs to be traded before any ideas of calling of Arcia are seriously entertained.
It has been a tough year for fans and players in Milwaukee. What is important to remember, however, are all the steps the team has taken to build towards sustainable, long term success. While the team won’t win much next season, the minor league core is now in place for some exciting baseball to start once again around the 2018 season and last for several years, if everything goes to according plan. Orlando Arcia will be an important part of that core, but fans and writers alike need to exercise patience while waiting for him to come to Milwaukee. We will have several young, exciting players like Taylor Jungmann, Jimmy Nelson, and Domingo Santana to watch at the MLB level next year while we’re waiting for the prospects to develop, a process that needn’t be rushed in any way. Ask yourself, is seeing Arcia in Milwaukee for the first two weeks of next season more important that controlling his entire age 27 season in 2022, when the team should be in the position to compete for a pennant?
No. The answer is no.